Fake Gen. John Hyten Telegram Channel Spreads QAnon Slogans Before Joe Biden Inauguration

A Telegram channel impersonating U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten attracted hundreds of thousands of users this week. It was used to spread a series of cryptic comments and language related to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Gen. Hyten, who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the country's second-highest-ranking military officer, does not have a social media presence and the Telegram account was a fake, his spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.

Created on January 18 under the name "General Hyten," the channel attracted more than 220,000 subscribers in 24 hours as supporters of the baseless conspiracy flocked to the profile on the chat app. Telegram recently enjoyed a surge in downloads as users sought alternatives to WhatsApp following a proposed privacy change.

It echoed broader false claims that President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration would be disrupted by emergency broadcasts or President Donald Trump declaring martial law or invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to stomp rebellion using the military.

Several posts from the fake Gen. Hyten channel spread QAnon terms, including "great awakening" and "storm." Another included an image of Trump with the caption "It'll be over soon," while another post asserted: "They all know what is coming."

One of the comments that appeared to reference military action was an image of armed uniformed soldiers alongside the caption: "Stay in your homes."

A spokesperson for Gen. Hyten, Maj. Trisha Guillebeau, told The Associated Press in a statement on Tuesday: "This Telegram account is fake. General Hyten doesn't have any professional or personal social media accounts across the board."

QAnon believers suggest that Trump is central to taking down a "deep state" cabal. The identity of "Q" has never been revealed but its advocates claim, without evidence, they are a government official who has access to intelligence. Sporadic information drops from Q are deciphered by QAnon followers after being published online.

During the Capitol Building riots on January 6, some of the people in the violent mob of pro-Donald Trump supporters were recorded wearing QAnon-branded clothing.

As of Wednesday, most posts from the fake Gen. Hyten channel appeared to have been removed. It was clearly labeled as being a scam account on Tuesday but is still showing as having 148,000 subscribers. Telegram has been contacted for comment.

A disclaimer now reads: "Warning: Many users reported this account as a scam or a fake account. Please be careful, especially if it asks you for money."

But a search for the term "Hyten" on the app by Newsweek brought up several new fake channels, including one with more than 3,100 subscribers called Genn John Hyten, and another with more than 3,000 subscribers called General John E. Hyten.

Some of the most recent comments from the fake channel General John E. Hyten read: "Patriots in control," "Welcome to the Revolution," and "It begins now."

While posts from the more populated channel were seemingly removed, screenshots of the original fake account have continued to circulate on Facebook and Twitter.

General Hyten’s posts on Telegram 👇
Follow closely ‼️💓🇺🇸💓🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/IHtdPSUjnG

— 🐳🌸☘️SeaUrchin海胆 (@SeaUrchin96825) January 19, 2021

Action seems to be on Telegram.... today watch General Hyten... becoming hot hot..... pic.twitter.com/HvAIOOYu97

— Christophe Bohnet (@BohnetCh) January 19, 2021

Hyten's spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday the Pentagon was "actively working" to get the original account removed, describing it as "an absolute fake."

A Telegram spokesperson confirmed the channel restriction, saying: "Telegram monitors reports and warns users about fraudulent accounts in clear-cut cases."

Ahead of the Biden inauguration, QAnon content appears to be thriving on the Telegram app, with one group identified by Newsweek hosting more than 100,000 subscribers. Facebook and Twitter have been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

Despite refusing to concede and spreading baseless conspiracies about voter fraud in the weeks since the 2020 presidential election last November, President Trump has said in a statement there will be an "orderly transition" to the Biden administration.

QAnon slogan at rally
Crowds arrive for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. A Telegram channel impersonating Air Force Gen. John Hyten attracted hundreds of thousands of users this week as it was used to spread a series of cryptic QAnon-style comments. Spencer Platt/Getty